I vividly remember the mornings of my childhood that began with cinnamon rolls. These mornings were always the best – my mom would quietly poke her head in my room and whisper, “Bea, time to get up” or sometimes in her silly mom voice, “wakey, wakey!” Immediately upon waking, I could smell them. The aroma of sweet rolls seemed to overtake the entire house, inviting us to leave the warmth of our beds to fill our tummies.
My sisters and I would race downstairs with the hopes that no one had squeezed the packet of icing onto the just baked rolls, as we wanted to do it. When we did get our wish, we always made sure that while doing so we claimed a certain roll to be ours. (And of course, after claiming it, we always made sure to put just a bit extra icing on, for all of our hard work.)
Cinnamon roll mornings were special. Often it signified the first day of school or a birthday, but occasionally, I think our parents just wanted to spoil us.
These mornings always seemed to be during the school year, and they managed to brighten up the rest of the day. Not only did they taste wonderfully and make my belly full and warm, but I also had something to tell on the playground. It was an opportunity for one of those little kid bragging moments for me – I got to proclaim that I ate cinnamon rolls for breakfast while hearing all the other students get excited for me, exclaiming their appreciation with a “lucky duck!” or “your parents must be awesome!” I cherished that attention. It wasn’t necessarily to make the others jealous, but to share in my excitement. Now that I think back on it, it really was quite a trivial thing to be so excited over, but I really loved those special mornings with the cinnamon rolls.
I love giving cinnamon rolls to people, and I think it’s partly due to these fond memories of cinnamon roll mornings. But also, it’s the taste, the gooey center, the individual rolls baked together as one, the sugar and butter, and the process of making them that I love so much. A cinnamon roll is so simple, yet it’s also sophisticated. It’s been proofed, mixed, kneaded, raised, rolled out, sprinkled with toppings, rolled back up, cut, raised again, and baked. But don’t let that intimidate you, because although they take some time to make homemade, the process is fun and messy, easy and oh so rewarding.
These cinnamon rolls are taken to the next level with the addition of dark chocolate and toasted hazelnuts. They taste a bit like nutella, but still have a touch of the classic cinnamon taste.
Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Cinnamon Rolls
Recipe adapted from Pioneer Woman
2 cups milk (I actually used almond milk)
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
4 cups flour + ½ cup later
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons melted butter (or more!)
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
½ cup brown sugar, packed
Cinnamon (about 1 teaspoon)
For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Set aside and cool until about 115 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, make sure it’s pretty warm, but not scalding. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk until frothy.
Add 4 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining ½ cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine.
To assemble the rolls, on a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.
To make the filling, brush the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the brown sugar on, then cinnamon (I used about 1 full teaspoon), then the hazelnuts and chocolate. Add more or less of each filling ingredient, the proportions are all up to you!
Beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch slices. Alternatively, used thread or dental floss to cut the slices. You should end up with around 20-25 rolls. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into round cake pans and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd. (Each pan will hold 7 to 9 rolls.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown.
While the rolls are baking, make an icing. I made a simple chocolate icing by whisking together 2 cups powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons milk, and ½ teaspoon vanilla.
I think a drizzle of nutella would also make a lovely and simple topping.
Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top. Enjoy these all to yourself, or better yet, share a pan with some loved ones!